In January 2018, Robin Choe, EMBA ’13, was promoted to head of North Asia at Mattel, Inc. overseeing Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.* He talks about how an EMBA prepared him for an international assignment, his top attributes of a great leader and what he’s most proud of in his career thus far. Check out his LinkedIn profile.
Why did you decide to get your EMBA?
I came to a point in my career where I felt I needed wisdom beyond what the workplace could offer. I also wanted to add more tools to my toolbox to keep me growing, effective and aware of how to adapt to the ever-changing world around me.
Why did you choose LMU?
I chose LMU because I felt the university was more intentional and personal to develop my “whole self”; not just becoming book smart but developing all aspects of myself (self-awareness, social, emotional, spiritual, etc.)
How did the LMU EMBA Program prepare you for an international assignment at Mattel?
The program curriculum helped broaden my perspective from a global standpoint as we addressed issues and recommended solutions that could benefit multiple geographies and cultures through a structured framework. The final research project gave my class the opportunity to go to multiple markets including China and Korea. This experience prepared me and gave me the confidence to move out of the U.S. shortly after graduating to take on a regional role in the Asia Pacific, a GM role in Seoul, Korea and an expanded GM role for all of North Asia.
What’s the biggest lesson or takeaway from working across international markets? What’s most challenging?
People are people across the world. Cultures and language may differ from market to market, but globally all companies are navigating similar challenges, issues and trying to provide solutions for the best outcome. Whether the focus is purpose or profit driven, people want to make an impact across the world. The challenge is having the CQ (cultural intelligence) and business skills to ensure all differing parties are on board with the same objective and outcome.
How are Korean consumers different from U.S. consumers?
Korean consumers are very smart shoppers as they are highly connected digitally which allows them to access information quickly and globally. Local brands in Korea are also very strong in many categories (i.e. Samsung electronics, Hyundai cars) so as a global multinational it is challenging to compete with such strong affinity to local properties.
How does Mattel integrate ethics and corporate responsibility into its mission and culture?
Mattel’s vision is to inspire wonder in the next generation to shape a brighter tomorrow. In order to realize this vision, Mattel is committed to raising the bar and has high standards in the areas of labor conditions, health, safety and the environment. This is reflected internally in our culture and externally in our communities.
In your opinion, what makes a great leader?
A great leader in a servant leader. A servant leader is someone who is humble, caring, compassionate, a good listener, and a steward of resources, people, time and ultimately accountable for their actions.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I led, negotiated and brokered the first ever complex deal in Korea approved by Mattel’s Board of Directors which includes M&A, global licensing and local distribution valued at over $100M+. I was involved in the deal making process from start to finish. This is something I am very proud of and continuing to build upon. (Learn more about the deal here.)
What advice do you have for students interested in a career in international business?
Be humble, hungry and willing to step outside your comfort zone. Make sure you have and continue to build a great support system around you. Continue to leverage your networks, find mentors and call upon your professors even after you graduate for wisdom, boldness and confidence as you step into the next season of challenges and uncertainty.
What do you miss most about California?
The surf, the weather, family and Mexican food!
*In November 2019, Robin moved to Ring as Head of Ecommerce.